Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy

Located in the Alps, close to the Austrian border, Cortina has been a major skiing destination for many years, however it has much to offer all the year round - not only when it is snowing!

Cortina d'Ampezzo, to use its full name, is located on the Boite river, in the alpine Ampezzo valley and stands at an elevation in excess of 1,200 metres.  It is surrounded by mountains on all sides including Tofane to the west, Pomagagnon to the north, Cristallo to the northeast, Faloria and Sorapiss to the east, and Becco di Mezzodì,Croda da Lago and Cinque Torri to the south.

It became noted on the tourist trail for people coming from northern Europe in the nineteenth century for its handicrafts which included not only wood furniture but also tiled stoves and iron, copper and glass items. It was so much noted for its crafts that the Austrian Ministry of Commerce set up there a State Industrial School in 1874,

In winter the population usually grows from 7,000 to 40,000. There are fewer people in summer than winter.

Before WW1, Cortina was in Austria.  It became close to the front line when Italy attacked Austro Hungary in May 1915.  Today, the Great War Tour stretches over 80 km across the mountains between Lagazuoi and Sass de Stria. It includes the Great War Open Air Museum with its trenches and tunnels. In winter it is accessible to skiers but it is easier to visit on foot or by mountain bike in the summer months.

Forte Tre Sassi (or Forte Tra i Sassi) is a fortress constructed in 1897 during the Austro-Hungarian period on the Passo Valparola. It lies between Sass de Stria andPiccolo Lagazuoi, dominating the passage between the Passo Falzarego and Val Badia in South Tyrol (Alto Adige). It was part of the large complex of Austrian fortifications built on the Italian border in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Rendered unusable due to a bombing by the Italians on 5 July 1915, the ruins remained in a state of disrepair until the advent of the 21st century, when it was restored by the local administration of Ampezzo, with the assistance of the Lacedelli family. The fort houses a museum containing relics related to the First World War.

Castello di Botestagno (also known as Podestagno) was a medieval fort perched on a rock in the valley of the river Boite, a little further north of Cortina, in the town of Prà del Caštel. It is believed that it was first erected as a stakeout during conflict with the Lombards between the seventh and eighth centuries, with the aim of dominating the three valleys that converge beneath it: the Boite, the Val di Fanes and the Val Felizon. The corner stone, however, probably dates to the 11th century. It was held by the Germans until 1077, and then by the patriarchs of Aquileia (12th century) and Camino (13th century), until Botestagno became the seat of a captaincy. It then passed into Venetian hands and finally to the Habsburgs. During the eighteenth century the castle lost importance gradually, until it was auctioned in 1782 by order of Emperor Joseph II. Today the fort has now almost completely disappeared; only the remnants of what must have been the wine cellars and the foundations remain, now weathered and largely covered up by vegetation.

 

Films

A number of films have been made in Cortina.  The ones you probably know best are The Pink Panther (1963), For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Cliffhanger (1993).

In For Your Eyes Only, James Bond met Luigi Ferrara (John Moreno) at the peak of Tofana, whilst staying at the Hotel Miramonti. A number of action sequences were shot in the town involving Bond and Erich Kriegler (John Wyman), as Kriegler competes in the biathlon. The battle culminates in a ski chase where Bond has to escape Kriegler and a crew of assassins on a spike-wheeled motorcycles, his route taking them all onto the bobsleigh run. The town centre was also the scene of the first attack on Bond and his partner Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) by two motorcyclists who attempted to run them over, only for Bond to eliminate them both, putting one of them through the window of a local florist.

 

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